How to stop checking things over and over

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Why obsessive checking isn't helping you feel good

If you have been there then probably you know how compulsive checking can be draining and exhausting. Right after checking on something, that you are worried about, you feel relieved but shortly intense thoughts come back again and force you to repeat the check.

All nonsense advice such as don't give in to those thoughts or try to keep yourself busy never works simply because your brain wants you to check on that thing right now. OCD is one form of anxiety where your brain is very concerned about something and it wants you to take an action about it.

OCD arises when you respond to those worries by checking on things instead of truly changing things. In my previous articles Why worrying is not pointless & How to stop thinking about something that bothers you i said that your brain won't bother sending you a strong signal unless there is a very important issue that it wants you to handle.

Now if you tried to distract yourself from that issue by using any nonsense advice such as "keep yourself busy" then your brain will do its best to bring you back to that issue by reminding you of it over and over. See why keeping yourself busy when facing a problem never works

Why checking is not the soloution

But if your brain wants you to check on something then why it never calms down for good after you make one or more checks?

Simply because your brain's objective is not to let you check on the things that worry you but its objective is to motivate you to eliminate the root cause of the problem.

Let's suppose that you always worry about the future and your ability to pay the bills. In such a case your brain doesn't want you to keep checking your mail to make sure that you are still employed but it wants you to find a permanent long term soloution for that problem.

Your brain is such a case might want you to:

  • 1) Develop the needed skills so that the company never fires you
  • 2) To have qualifications to find another job fast even if you got fired
  • 3) To have some savings so that you can survive until you find another job
  • 4) And the list goes on

Now if you responded to that problem by just checking that your boss still likes you or that the company still thinks that you are good then your worries will never go away. In my article The ultimate solution to end worrying i explained how dealing with the root cause and preparing yourself to face the worst can help you end worrying.

When the anxiety disguises itself as OCD

The previous example was simple and clear because the connection between the obsessive thoughts and the checking behaviour was very direct. But what about compulsive hand washing for example?

Why would someone keep believing that their hands are dirty?
And what kind of goals would the brain be after in such a case?

In my previous articles Understanding the unconscious symbols & Why do we dream in symbols i explained how the brain uses symbols to operate and how it can communicate a message to you using a symbol.

In the case of compulsive hand washing for example you need to understand what kind of symbol the brain is using in order to understand what it truly wants. Is the brain worried about guilt for example and so using the dirty hands as a symbol for guilt?

Understanding the symbols your brain uses is crucial to understanding more complex cases of OCD where the checking behaviour doesn't seem to have a purpose.

How to stop checking things over and over

So what's the action plan to stop those horrible thoughts?

  • 1) Find out what your brain really wants: Find out what your brain really wants so that you can understand the message it's trying to send you. Once you find out the goal your brain is trying to reach the next step will become very clear.
  • 2) Implement a long term soloution: Checking won't help you but a long term soloution certainly will. In fact your desire to check over and over will get reduced as soon as you start working on the plan. In my book The 5 Minute Happiness Formula i said that sometimes all the brain needs in order for it to make you feel good is a signal that you are on your way to handle its important concerns

That's OCD my friend.

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